Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “All the King's Men” as Want to Read:
All the King's Men
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

All the King's Men

4.07  ·  Rating Details  ·  43,807 Ratings  ·  1,732 Reviews
More than just a classic political novel, Warren’s tale of power and corruption in the Depression-era South is a sustained meditation on the unforeseen consequences of every human act, the vexing connectedness of all people and the possibility—it’s not much of one—of goodness in a sinful world. Willie Stark, Warren’s lightly disguised version of Huey Long, the onetime Loui ...more
Paperback, 2nd Harvest edition, 438 pages
Published September 1st 1996 by Harcourt Brace (first published 1946)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about All the King's Men, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee1984 by George OrwellThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Best Books of the 20th Century
223rd out of 6,586 books — 44,521 voters
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeGone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellThe Help by Kathryn StockettThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark TwainFried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Best Southern Literature
24th out of 883 books — 2,218 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jeffrey Keeten
Jun 05, 2015 Jeffrey Keeten rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jeffrey by: On the Southern Literary Trail
Shelves: southern
"Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud."

Robert Penn Warren

Robert Penn Warren is the only person to win the Pulitzer prize for fiction as well as poetry. He won the prize for fiction in 1946 for this very book. If you are lucky enough to have a great aunt who reads, and bought a lot of books in the 1940s, you might take a gander at her books some time and see if she has a first edition, first printing of this book in
May 01, 2008 Heather rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-novels
Compelling, overstuffed, overplotted, sexist, labyrinthine, poetic, atmospheric. To me this book's status as The Great American Political Novel seems like a terrific bitter joke, because the author's vision of "politics" is comprised entirely of blackmail, physical intimidation, pork-barreling, rabble-rousing, nepotism, bribery, rigged elections, and hilariously contrived "family values" photo shoots. (I love the scene where a photographer and two aides attempt to wrestle a comatose, foul-smelli ...more
All the King's Men: Robert Penn Warren's Spider Web

This Novel was chosen as a group read by members of On the Southern Literary Trail for July 2012 and again in October,2014.

"It all began, as I have said, when the Boss, sitting in the black Cadillac which sped through the night, said to me (to Me who was what Jack Burden, the student of history, had grown up to be) "There is always something."
And I said, "Maybe not on the Judge."
And he said, "Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and h
Feb 06, 2011 Kemper rated it really liked it
At first glance, Willie Stark seems like he would have been the perfect Tea Party candidate. He uses fiery rhetoric to stir up crowds by claiming to be just like them and that he’s going to bust the heads of those evil ole politicians at the state house to force them the straighten up and do things the right way. But on the other hand, Willie actually knows something about government and uses his tactics to improve the lives of poor people by taxing the wealthy and using that money to do things ...more
Oct 14, 2009 Weinz rated it really liked it
Recommended to Weinz by: Bernie
Shelves: favorites
I finished this book on a plane. I was on a plane coming home from somewhere that I didn't belong and as we coasted onto the tarmac I felt a little like Jack Burden. He was never really comfortable in the shoes that he wore but was constantly striving to find the truth in things. He was looking for the truth while consistently doing the right even when it was hardest. Not to say that I am this all knowing altruistic seeker of truth in all things, quite the opposite, but coming from somewhere I d ...more
Jul 23, 2012 Gary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ok......What did i think?? I wish I had read this book a loooooooooooongggggg time ago....... but maybe it was time to read it now. I think every American , whether Democrat, Republican, Independent, or I don't give a shit party, should read it..... It's a very modern topical novel to read now about how corruption can ruin a person,because we have to be right about everything........ instead of trying to work together for the better welfare of

"everyone" in this country.

It's a book that makes yo
Mike Hart
Nov 20, 2013 Mike Hart rated it it was amazing
Read this passage:

A woman only laughs that way a few times in her life. A woman only laughs that way when something has touched her way down in the very quick of her being and the happiness just wells out as natural as breath and the first jonquils and mountain brooks. When a woman laughs that way it always does something to you. It does not matter what kind of a face she has got either. You hear that laugh and feel that you have grasped a clean and beautiful truth. You feel that way because tha
Apr 26, 2016 Matt rated it it was amazing
All the King’s Men is one of my favorite books, and I find it hard to write about my favorite books. When you are swept away by something – a book, a movie, a girl – all objectivity tends to disappear. Instead of pointed analysis, cold-eyed criticism, and thoughtful chin-stroking, there is gushing and platitudes and hyperbole.

In fact, instead of writing a review, I prefer to strip naked and run around the block screaming Robert Penn Warren’s many virtues.

Okay, I’m back.

There are a lot of great
Apr 30, 2015 Lyn rated it it was amazing
Robert Penn Warren's, All the Kings Men won the 1947 Pulitzer prize, and could also have won that prize in the next three years.

Is this 400 pages of poetic prose or a great epic prosaic poem? This work would make a great primer for college English lit majors, I think Warren used every literary device and may have made up some more.

And like so many master performances of art or sport, he makes it look effortless, he makes it look easy. This was like watching Joe DiMaggio glide across the outfie
Sep 02, 2007 Andrew added it
All the King’s Men is often promoted as a novel about politics, occasionally even the quintessential novel of American politics. While I did enjoy the portrait of Willie Stark as an archetype political boss, more interesting, to me, is the struggle of the narrator, Jack Burden, to overcome his nihilistic doubts in the face of a world governed by power. Jack claims to overcome his nihilism (“the Great Twitch”) by coming to an understanding of the morality of his own life (the personal and inter-p ...more
Lewis Weinstein
May 05, 2012 Lewis Weinstein rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction-general
ATKM’s "dead on" characterizations of political behavior are as relevant today as they were when it won a Pulitzer in 1947. Often described as the story of Willie Stark, a thinly disguised fictional stand-in for fabled Louisiana Governor Huey Long, it is really much more that of Jack Burden, Stark’s aide and friend, from whose first person POV the story is told.

Alternately attracted and repulsed by the tangy smells of commitment and corruption, Jack engages our sympathy and intellect as he perso
Larry Bassett
I like politics. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that I have been involved with politics for a long time at a lot of different levels. Mostly my heart is with third party politics. This book has a special interest to me although I have never read it. The title is very familiar to me but I can’t say exactly why that is.

I have come to believe that anyone who is successful in politics and has been elected is probably someone who is intellectually dishonest. After all, can you imagine some
King of Pain
"There's a little black spot on the sun today (that's my soul up there).
It's the same old thing as yesterday (that's my soul up there)."
Gordon Sumner, King of Pain, 1982 (inspired by Hungarian-born novelist Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon)

Robert Penn Warren had been teaching at LSU for about a year prior to the 1935 assassination of U.S. Sen. Huey P. Long (La.), nicknamed "Kingfish," the populist and crooked 42-yr-old senator and former Louisiana governor, on whom his novel is
Jun 22, 2008 Brinda rated it it was amazing
This book was unlike anything I have ever read before and I doubt I will read many of its caliber ever again. It is an epic, biblical, human yet quintessentially American saga, disguised in the bizarre circumstances surrounding a particular brand of local Southern politics. In Willie Stark, Penn Warren has created the ultimate American antihero -- describing to the tee the populist circus the campaign trail becomes, with Willie playing off the parasitic needs of potential voters and staffers and ...more
Feb 19, 2013 Jonfaith rated it it was amazing
Jack Burden is one of my favorite characters. He hovers as a reflection of what could've been, yet his finality terrifies me. The scenes detailing Burden smoking in the dark and the winds arriving from the Canadian north are amazing. Warren eyes both Faulkner and Gibbon. His study of power echoes the Bard, though his poetic flourishes are native-born. He eyes his betters and replicates to placate Carson and Marsa Bill. All The Kings Men is regarded as the best example of the political novel. I'm ...more
Mister Jones
Jan 26, 2008 Mister Jones rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Mister Jones by: My Southern Literature Teacher
For my money, I think this is the greatest book in Southern Literature exceeding Faulkner. All the King's Men is much more than the usual purported centrality of Willie Stark's political motives and final demise, and the usual shallow analogies to Huey Long; if anything, the novel's narrator, Jack Bundren, is a cynical person whose life has unraveled. I think the one scene with Jack's father will always stay vivid as the epitome of Southern Grotesque. It is a multi-layer novel--with clarity and ...more
Sep 16, 2009 Kellie rated it did not like it
I go through a lot of anxiety when I decide to quit a book in the middle of it. I really did give this one a chance. I really like the leader of my book club, who chose this book, however, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I never read such a bunch of babble before in my life. If all the babble was pulled out of this book, it would probably be 100 pages. As opposed to it’s 437. This quote is an example… “If there weren’t any other people there wouldn’t be any you because what you do, which is wha ...more
Mar 17, 2011 Kathy rated it it was amazing
Wow, this is a fantastic book! The story and the characters are first-rate, but it is the language that really got me. Sentence after sentence of verbiage that is so evocative, so perfect, you just want to savor it, to make it last, running its sweetness over your tongue and your teeth and just keeping the taste of it around as long as possible.

I knew for sure that this was going to be a rare and wonderful read when Jack Burden, the narrator, described his own nose as a hooked, askew, cartilagin
Don’t get too caught up in the belief that this book is, as the back of my copy suggests, “The definitive novel about American politics”. Oh, it’s “definitive” alright, and it’s both “American” and “politics”, but those words limit rather than describe the places this novel takes you.

First an admission on my part- there were three motivations which led me to tackle this 600 page beast: 1) It was selected as one of the monthly group reads within the Goodreads group “On the Southern Literary Trail
Jan 01, 2015 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Politics is a matter of choices, and a man doesn't set up the choices himself. And there is always a price to make a choice. You know that. You've made a choice, and you know how much it cost you. There is always a price.”

This quote really is the thesis of this book. Choices matter. I think this is an extremely important American book that should be read by everybody. It is as essential to the American experience as "The Great Gatsby." In fact, it reminded me of that book in many regards: The
Momof3-in an Ash and Cael sandwich
For Banned Book Week!
I think 3.5 stars.
Look, I'm not the brightest bulb okay, I know this, you know this. I remember in high school my history teacher made us watch The Wizard of Oz and write about how it was a metaphor for populism or something, I didn't get it. I still don't, all I thought was he was ruining a fantastic movie by reading too much into it. My point? It's entirely possible I have completely missed the point of the book. I got out of it what I got out of it.
The writing: I did lik
Apr 29, 2016 Barbara rated it really liked it
Meaning to do good, Willie Stark rises from self-educated lawyer to political bigwig and eventually governor. Along the way he loses his moral compass and develops a taste for power, resorting to bullying, bribery, blackmail - whatever it takes - to get what he wants.

Willie does manage to help some of his constituents, taxing the wealthy to provide schools and hospitals for the poor. But he also betrays his wife; raises a selfish, self-absorbed son; corrupts good people; and eventually reaps the
Oct 07, 2015 Simon marked it as read-enough-of
Shelves: fiction
OK, I gave up on this earlier, resumed it, and now I'm about to give up on it again, about 65% of the way through it. I just can't. Here are some random thoughts:

1) Willie Stark is a great character, in equal measure charming and appalling. If only the book were really about him, as it promises to be. All the stuff about him is fantastic.

2) The narrator, Jack Burden, is a pompous bore. I hate him. I hate his name. "Jack." I've always hated that name. (Apologies to anyone called that. It's me, no
Oct 05, 2008 Teresa rated it it was amazing
I first read this in Oct '06 and just re-read it for a discussion that was held in conjunction with this year's Louisiana Book Festival. It's amazing what one forgets in just 2 years, but what I didn't forget was Warren's lyrical way with words and structure, and the questioning, many times sardonic voice of his narrator, Jack Burden. It was a pleasure to read it again.

It took me so long to read this book in the first place because I thought it was going to be 'just' a fictionalized account of H
Oct 23, 2014 Nicholas rated it it was amazing
Shelves: next-in-line, na-bc
One of the best books about the south. It is labeled as a political novel, but it is truly more. The way it is written is great with the flashbacks and insight into the characters past. Though it is long winded with description at times, I think the characters are fleshed out and the ending leaves you satisfied. Highly recommend.
Aug 02, 2012 Franky rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Warren’s All the King’s Men is deeply political in story, yet it also very insightful in its point of view, examining one man’s role and perspective towards the monumental rise and fall of a political figure. As much as the plot is devoted to Willie Stark, it is more so linked to narrator Jack Burden, his ideologies about the world of politics, campaigning and playing hard ball and dirty politics, being Willie’s right hand man, and his coming to terms with the tragic consequences that unfold lat ...more
Douglas Perry
Jun 19, 2010 Douglas Perry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Great books don't seem to live on anymore, at least not in the same, swaggering way they did before information overload hit us all. But I refuse to be completely sucked into the stream, the obsession with what's next, so every year or so I return to my favorite comfort reading, Robert Penn Warren's 1946 masterpiece, "All the King's Men."

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is about the corrupt, spellbinding politician Willie Stark, who makes goodness out of badness because "there isn't anything el
May 04, 2008 Coy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Coy by: Angela
I can understand why people call this a classic. It sort of reminds me of the Great Gatsby, one of my favorite novels. I can also hear the narration at the end. It's deep, nostalgic, matter of fact and meloncholy-- like saying goodbye. That reminds me of A River Runs Through It. After all is said and done, however, I can't say that All the Kings Men, to me, was as good as a River Runs Through It or Gatsby.

This I write much to the dismay of my girlfriend, who not only loves All the King's Men, b
Aug 14, 2008 Ewurama rated it it was ok
I read All the King’s Men several months ago after hearing from someone how much he and his book club had enjoyed the book. It had been sitting on my shelf for some time, and that recommendation was all the motivation I needed to finally pick up the book.

All the King’s Men is often referred to as a great novel of American politics—what a misnomer! Let’s not even focus on the “great” part; let’s talk first about “politics.” It’s not a book about politics; it’s a book about a man—and not the man
Mar 20, 2009 Nate rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite novels - really, the book that helped me define what a novel even is. There's a real breadth to the action of this novel and characters that are real in ways I hadn't come across in a novel before. I found myself equally drawn to the quiet lyrical moments of this and the more declarative sections of action and character manipulation.

The overall plot - political intrigue in Louisiana politics - is so secondary to my enjoyment that I almost forget that is the setting. To
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • The Store
  • Studs Lonigan
  • A Dance to the Music of Time: 1st Movement (A Dance to the Music of Time, #1-3)
  • The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford
  • The Confessions of Nat Turner
  • The Magnificent Ambersons (The Growth Trilogy, #2)
  • Honey in the Horn
  • The Able McLaughlins
  • Early Autumn: A Story of a Lady
  • Scarlet Sister Mary
  • In This Our Life
  • The Late George Apley
  • Now in November
  • Loving
  • His Family
  • The Bridge of San Luis Rey
  • The Edge of Sadness
  • Lamb in His Bosom
Robert Penn Warren was an American poet, novelist, and literary critic, and was one of the founders of New Criticism. He was also a charter member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers. He is the only person to have won Pulitzer Prizes for both fiction and poetry. He won the Pulitzer in 1947 for his novel All the King's Men (1946) and won his subsequent Pulitzer Prizes for poetry in 1957 and then ...more
More about Robert Penn Warren...

Share This Book

“The end of man is knowledge, but there is one thing he can't know. He can't know whether knowledge will save him or kill him. He will be killed, all right, but he can't know whether he is killed because of the knowledge which he has got or because of the knowledge which he hasn't got and which if he had it, would save him.” 1173 likes
“[F]or when you get in love you are made all over again. The person who loves you has picked you out of the great mass of uncreated clay which is humanity to make something out of, and the poor lumpish clay which is you wants to find out what it has been made into. But at the same time, you, in the act of loving somebody, become real, cease to be a part of the continuum of the uncreated clay and get the breath of life in you and rise up. So you create yourself by creating another person, who, however, has also created you, picked up the you-chunk of clay out of the mass. So there are two you's, the one you create by loving and the one the beloved creates by loving you. The farther those two you's are apart the more the world grinds and grudges on its axis. But if you loved and were loved perfectly then there wouldn't be any difference between the two you's or any distance between them. They would coincide perfectly, there would be perfect focus, as when a stereoscope gets the twin images on the card into perfect alignment.” 105 likes
More quotes…